Exploring the world's built environments and seeking sustainable solutions.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cohousing and Sustainability: Munksøgaard


During our stay in Denmark, we had the opportunity to visit the Munksøgaard cohousing development located in Trekroner. Munksøgaard is a highly successful community dedicated to minimizing its ecological footprint and promoting a healthy, sustainable lifestyle for all of its residents. This ecological housing project began in the early 1990s and was completed in 2000. It now provides over 100 units for 240 residents. The community is comprised of four main housing groups that cater to different types of residents. These groups are responsible for performing specific tasks (cooking, gardening, ground maintenance, etc.) that benefit the community as a whole. In addition, Munksøgaard has implemented several environmental initiatives in efforts to reduce energy use, encourage ecological building practices, support the local food movement, and set a positive example for other communities. Some of these unique sustainable features are discussed below:


Waste Management:
Due to its small population and relatively rural location, the Munksøgaard community is able to process most of it’s organic, biological, and water waste onsite: food scraps and other organic wastes are composted, urine is collected by separation toilets and used as an organic fertilizer, and waste water is treated by a biological sand filter. This small eco-village also has its own recycling center to manage excess waste output. These local waste management practices help preserve the environment by reducing transportation trips and alleviating pressure on existing waste treatment facilities.

Building Materials:
Green roofs: Munksøgaard offers a great example of how green roofs can effectively treat and mitigate the effects of stormwater runoff while providing a pleasing aesthetic for the community. Essentially, green roofs work to temporarily retain excess storm water. This type of water retention helps prevent flooding and avoid water contamination that may occur from an overwhelmed wastewater collection system. The vegetation on the roofs also help insulate buildings, which can reduce the amount of energy needed for heating and cooling. Munksøgaard has incorporated green roofs on several residential dwellings, storage units, and animal shelters. 



Shell roofs: Another type of green roof is depicted below. Munksøgaard is one of the first communities to experiment with using mussel-shells as a type of stormwater management system. The shell roof functions similarly to a traditional green roof by absorbing and temporarily retaining excess water runoff. In addition, rather than importing traditional roofing materials from distant production sites, all of the mussel shells are collected from a local fishery. 



Straw Insulation: This picture reveals the straw insulation that supports Munksøgaard's new community center. Instead of using traditional energy-intensive materials, Munksøgaard is committed to integrating organic, low-tech building materials into its new development projects. This innovative and effective design reflects a growing demand for eco-friendly construction materials around the globe.




Community Gardens:
Each residential dwelling in Munksøgaard has the opportunity to cultivate its own fruits and vegetables onsite. The elderly residents are responsible for maintaining a large garden located in the center of community. They work together to irrigate and compost the land in addition to growing and gathering produce. This cooperative gardening program provides local and organic food to residents while supporting an active, healthy lifestyle.

Car Share:
Though residents are allowed to have their own car, the Munksøgaard community has implemented a car sharing program that aims to promote alternative energy and reduce fossil fuel dependency. The car fleet is comprised of hybrid vehicles with a new addition of a completely electric car. In order to use one of the cars, residents simply reserve a car online for the time and date that they need. Car-sharing has been proven to reduce vehicle trips and encourage other forms of transportation . For example, Munksøgaard residents rely on bicycles as their primary mode of transportation within the community and also support public transportation by using the nearby railway station when traveling to other cities.
   


Conclusion: Overall, our visit to Munksøgaard was very inspiring. This cohousing development is a great example of how simple, sustainable practices can be incorporated into daily life in a way that adds value to a community. Although cooperative housing communities have become increasingly popular in many parts of Europe, the trend has not yet gained momentum in the United States. Despite the fact that many Americans may find the idea of cooperative housing unappealing, it is important to recognize the potential environmental savings of maintaining a more ecological lifestyle. Individual communities and cities can benefit greatly from implementing simple, energy-saving measures such as green roofs or car-sharing. Collectively, these small initiatives can go a long way toward creating happy, healthy, and sustainable communities around the world.



By: Kaitlyn Silveira

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